Welfare Made A Difference

Mission Statement

The Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign is a coalition based public education and legislative action campaign that draws upon the personal experiences of current and former welfare recipients to illustrate the value of a reliable, adequate, and non-punitive welfare system. The Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign is a project of Community Food Resource Center in New York City.

The Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign seeks to reshape public perception about and public policy relating to welfare by documenting and disseminating the stories of the diverse group of people who have received welfare and struggled out of poverty with the help of welfare. By sharing personal stories of past and present welfare recipients — from all regions of the country and all walks of life — the Campaign will present alternative images of welfare recipients to the media, the American people, and to Congress.

Since the beginning of the federal welfare program in the 1930s, many millions of people have received support from welfare. It is our belief that, when even a small fraction of these individuals come forward and share their stories in public forums and their private lives, it will convey a powerful stereotype shattering message.

WMAD: What We’ve Done

4-24-02
Targeted Calls Needed on House TANF Reauthorization Bills
Dear WMAD Members and Allies,
There has been fast movement on TANF reauthorization in the past week. WE NEED TO GET CALLS INTO THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE EDUCATION & WORKFORCE COMMITTEE AND HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE TODAY AND TOMORROW.
Please take a few minutes to contact the members of the Committees from your state (or if you have met with them in the past) to let them know the amendments you think are necessary for real poverty reduction. Ask your friends, coworkers, family, members/board members of your organization to call too. Registering your opinion with the Congressional offices can have an impact!!! To find their phone
numbers, fax numbers and email addresses please go to www.house.gov If you have any questions, please contact me or Debbie Noble (dnoble@larcc.org). Thanks, Liz

Background House Education & Workforce

The 21st Century Subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee (this subcommittee has jurisdiction over work and education issues in TANF reauthorization) did a "mark up" (process for committee members to change the bill) of Chairman McKeon's (R-CA) TANF Reauthorization Bill (basically the Bush proposal and similar to Herger bill-see description below) last Thursday.
Phone MESSAGE FOR EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE CMT MEMBERS:
(NOTE: Fax message for Democrats pasted at end of this notice.)
I am calling to ask that Representative ----- support legislation that would increase access to education and training, count a parent's caring for their pre-school age child as fulfilling the work requirements, fully restore benefits to immigrants and stop welfare time limits for families who are in compliance. HR 4092 places undue hardships on families already struggling to survive and does nothing to help them out of poverty"

Background Ways and Means

Representative Wally Herger's welfare bill, HR 4090 --
"The Personal Responsibility, Work and Family Promotion Act", (basically President Bush's welfare plan) will come before the full House Ways and Means Committee this week. Among other harmful provisions, Chairman Herger's bill increases the work requirement so that States are required to have 70% of welfare families working and participating in other job-preparation activities 40 hours per week in FY 2007. States get credit for caseload declines.
The proposal allows for parents with infants and individuals who need substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation or special work-related training to get these services for only 3 months in any 24-month period. The bill directs up to $300 million annually for marriage promotion programs.
The bill also bill also encourages states to spend more of their own funds on programs designed to promote marriages.
Last Thursday the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee did a "mark up" of the Herger Bill with the only changes going in the wrong direction. Rep. English's (R-PA) amendment to impose full family sanctions when an adult doesn't meet the work requirement; and Representative Johnson (R-CT) amendment to terminate benefits if an adult doesn't work for two consecutive months were adopted in the Human Resources Subcommittee.

MESSAGE FOR WAYS AND MEANS CMT MEMBERS:

I am calling to ask that Representative ----- support legislation that would increase access to education and training, count a parent's caring for their pre-school age child as fulfilling the work requirements, fully restore benefits to immigrants and stop welfare time limits for families who are in compliance. HR 4090 places undue hardships on families already struggling to survive and does nothing to help them out of "poverty".

Fax text for Democrats on House Education and Workforce Committee:

Dear _________,
Re: Education and the Workforce Committee
Markup of HR 4092

VOTE YES on all amendments that guarantee full educational and vocational opportunity to TANF recipients; that strike the unworkable 70%/40hr work requirement; that preserve the civil rights and labor rights of recipients in all aspects of the TANF program, including in unpaid or paid employment; that support parental caregiving work for children who have not attained school age or who are sick or disabled; and that count a recipient's participation in services to address barriers to stable employment as a work activity. VOTE NO on the Miller Substitute or similar amendments if they:

1) increase the work standard beyond 30 hours;
2) lower from age 6 to age 3 the 20 hour work standard for parents with young children;
3) maintain the 70% state work participation rate provided in HR 4092;
4)limit the length of time a recipient can pursue education and training (including post-secondary education);
5) undermine academic freedom by limiting allowable education only to courses of study that welfare agencies deem "appropriate" and "work-related;" and/or
6) arbitrarily restrict the length of time a recipient may participate in allowable services to address barriers to stable employment such as mental health or substance abuse problems.

VOTE NO on HR 4092.
Sincerely,   Your Name

*****

Stories

State/Issue Based Booklets – several groups expressed interest in developing WMAD booklets that are state/issue focused. This is a great idea and we are hoping that additional groups might be interested in doing this. It would be amazing if we could have booklets for every state. The design of the booklets can be as simple or sophisticated as suits your needs and resources.

Build National database of stories

We would like to have a base of at least 3 stories from every state by February. This could serve many purposes including providing information to members of Congress and developing targeted public education materials.

Action Days – Spring 2001 and Fall 2001

Along with the ongoing work through the year we would like to hold two national action days where a coordinated Welfare Made A Difference message can echo throughout the country. We are in the very preliminary stages of planning a spring event. The Spring Action Day will focus on Congress (in local districts and in Washington, DC) and local legislative bodies.
We will be calling on our coalition partners to organize local actions/activities but also to help get people to Washington, D.C.

Legislative Strategy

In addition to the action days we will work with coalition partners to get the Welfare Made A Difference message out to elected officials nationally and locally.

National Day of Action

On September 14, the Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign announced the launch of a public education campaign in preparation for the upcoming elections and the debates on federal welfare reauthorization. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) joined other successful former welfare recipients from all regions of the country to share their stories about how welfare helped them feed their kids, obtain health care, escape domestic violence, and meet their educational goals.
"We view welfare as an investment in people," said Liz Accles, Chair of the Welfare Made A Difference Campaign. "A fair, supportive social welfare system can create success stories that benefit us all. We believe that poverty can be ended through supportive policies and adequate benefits."

In Washington, DC, the Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign featured two major events:
a press conference at the National Press Club; and a speak-out at the Capitol Building, House Triangle.

Speakers included Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI) at the National Press Club and Representative Lynn Woolsey at the Capitol along with women from Florida, Oregon, Montana, New York, Georgia, Nevada, and many other areas of the country. The National Day of Action also included activities organized by groups in every region of the country, representing rural, urban, and suburban experiences.
"I would go so far as to say that pre-reform welfare saved my life," said Vivyan Adair, Ph.D., professor at Hamilton College, New York. "I was able to feed, clothe and house my daughter, and I was also able to go to school so that eventually I could enter the professional workforce and lift my family out of poverty on a permanent and fulfilling basis." Adair and several other people described how supportive welfare policies helped them move out of poverty.

Since 1996, with the elimination of welfare as an entitlement, lines at soup kitchens have grown longer and emergency food providers often run out of food. In 2002, the Personal Responsibility Act expires, providing Congress with an opportunity to recommit the government to helping people in need. In an effort to shift the country's debate around welfare, the Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign was designed to challenge the stereotypes about who receives welfare and to illustrate through people's stories the direct impact policies have on families receiving assistance.

The links below are examples of some of the media coverage of the National Day of Action:

Advocates Mobilize to Revamp Federal Welfare Law: Saving the Safety Net from the Village Voice
Conference seeks respect for welfare from the Oakland Tribune
Turning the Tables:Welfare reform faces a time limit of its own from In These Times
Campaign Begins to Reform Flawed Welfare Law from Women's eNews
Feeling the pain of welfare reform from the New York Blade

Materials Distribution

We would love for our public education materials to reach a very broad audience. We want to get our materials out to people that usually don't have access to views of welfare that are different from those presented by most politicians and the mainstream media. We are looking to get friendly teachers, professors, clergymembers, community leaders, etc. to distribute the campaign materials, lead discussions and hopefully mobilize people around these issues. We are looking for networks that we can tap into that could help us reach diverse audiences

Mother’s Day Event

On May 11, 2000, LIFETIME (Low-Income Families Empowered Through Education) in Oakland, California, organized a Welfare Made A Difference event focusing on Mother’s Day and celebrating the achievements of student mothers who are graduating out of poverty through education. Diana Spatz, LIFETIME’s Executive Director, brought together people from different locations in California to share their various experiences with the public.

Below is an excerpt from the press release publicizing the event:

Last class to graduate off welfare?
Work requirements and California’s felony drug exclusion will prevent CalWORKs mothers from getting access to the education, training and drug treatment services they need to get off welfare and out of poverty through high-wage jobs – but with AB 1233 and SB 1884, this will change. Join CalWORKs student mothers as they graduate into jobs paying $11 to $22 per hour to discuss the importance of these bills, and how Welfare Made a Difference by giving them access to critical drug treatment and supportive services they need to graduate off welfare – and out of poverty – for good. Without this legislation, their success stories will become a thing of the past.

Campaign Kickoff Event
On March 24, 2000, the Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign’s kickoff event took place at the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. The event was organized by a coalition of welfare rights groups in Massachusetts and led by Working Massachusetts. It was a powerful event featuring 13 brief and powerful speakers talking about how welfare made a difference in their lives and how under current policies the same support would not be available. The speakers included Massachusetts State Senator Diane Wilkerson and the President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Bob Haynes.

Shortly after the event, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a long overdue welfare grant increase.

Sponsoring organizations included Working Massachusetts, Academic Working Group on Poverty, Boston Women’s Health Collective, Human Services Coalition, Family Economic Initiative, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Coalition for the Homeless, Massachusetts Office of Justice and Peace/Sisters of St. Joseph, MassSERVE, Massachusetts Welfare Rights Union, Sisters Together Ending Poverty, Welfare Education and Training Access Coalition, and Women’s Statewide Legislative Network.

Tapes of the event are available by contacting Sharron Tetrault at 617-482-4471 or wkgmass@aol.com

Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign
39 Broadway, 10th Floor – c/o CFRC
New York, NewYork 10006
Phone: 212-894-8082. Fax: 212-616-4990
Email: wmadcampaign@yahoo.com

WMADCampaign.org